A damning account of the merciless brutality of the torture methods employed by the security apparatus of De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic in its repression of the Algerian struggle for independence. Gangrene consists of the dispassionate depositions made by seven Algerians (a commercial traveller, students, a journalist, and a pharmaceutical assistant) arrested in December 1958 by the French counter-intelligence service, the D.S.T. (La Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) on the orders of its then director, Roger Wybot, and Paris police chief and former Petainist and Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon*. Originally published in France on 16 June 1959, La Gangrène was immediately banned and the print run seized by the De Gaulle government; on June 23, French police smashed the plates intended for a second edition. In spite of the sadistic treatment to which the students were subjected, the language and style of the narrative is told in a restrained and unsensational manner; how a man who refused to speak was forced to strip naked, hung upon a spit like a trussed turkey, electrodes applied to his genitals, his head plunged into a tub of liquid containing urine and vomit. It is an historical irony that many of the police ‘specialists’ involved in these horror-steeped activities, particularly Wybot himself — De Gaulle’s ‘Beria’ in London— were former ‘heroes’ of the so-called French Resistance. As one of them remarked: “I was tortured by the Nazis; now I do it myself.” Perhaps the final irony was that these tortures — carried out in the name of the Fifth Republic — took place in the basement of 11 rue des Saussaise, the former Paris headquarters of the Gestapo, where many of their own comrades had been subjected to a similar fate. Plus ça change!
Torture scene (Battle of Algiers):
French justification of torture:
CIA ARCHIVE (Algerian War of Independence):
Mohammed Larbi Ben M’hidi:
* In Paris, on the night of October 17, 1961, an illegal demonstration against French policy in Algeria was crushed with great ferocity; an estimated 300 Algerians were shot or beaten to death and many of the bodies were thrown into the Seine. Documents later emerged which showed that Papon had ordered the police to ‘shoot on sight’. On February 8, 1962, another demonstration was violently dispersed and nine Algerians were killed at the entrance to the Métro station Charonne. Papon was also implicated in the mysterious kidnapping and subsequent disappearance of the Moroccan independence leader, Ben Barka, who was arrested by the French police in the centre of Paris on October 30 1965. Papon was not replaced as Paris police chief until December 21, 1966.
Papon: October 17, 1961:
October 17, 1961 (in Arabic):